Do you see him? That’s Neo. And, did you know that ‘neo’ means something in Greek? Also, I bet you $1 that Neo, in the Matrix, symbolizes something — Muhahahahaha!
But, more seriously:
Stuff exists in the world, and people write about it. Like neoclassicism for music, neo (or nu) jazz, and neo cooking. But that’s not all. There are “neo” approaches in politics as well:
Have you ever encountered neorealists? How about neoliberals? neoconservatives? Well, here’s what those things are (very briefly): Neorealists emphasize the role of power in decision making, neoliberals emphasize worker protections and guided markets, and a neoconservative emphasizes exporting traditional conceptions of life, liberty, property to other countries (cough, George Bush).
And what’s different about these from their traditional counterparts? Simple. They take one or two ideas from the original theories, and they expand how those ideas are beneficial. In essence, they emphasize a portion of the original theories, and if you don’t know what some of those are, I’ve got you covered here.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what distinguishes neo isms from their traditional counterparts, then this is the article for you. Also, keep in mind that what you learn here is transferable to really any discipline.
First of all, what does the ‘neo’ prefix mean?
Well, in Greek, it means new, fresh, or reworked. Something that takes the original (of something) and updates it, or freshens it up.
But, be careful not to confuse the ‘neo’ prefix for something that is “Revisionist.”
For example, “revisionist” historians or commentators typically seek to correct past history; or revise what is generally accepted as history. For example, there are revisionist historians that seek to prove that the US fabricated the Gulf of Tonkin story to start the Vietnamese ground invasion.
The basic difference between neo-theories and revisionist claims are this: Neo-theories, or approaches, validate older theories by updating (and a lot of times de-complicating) them while revisionists seek to fundamentally correct something they deem incorrect.
This distinction is pretty important. If somebody tells you that they’re part of a neosocialist movement, there are several questions you may want to ask: 1) What is a socialist, and 2) how does a neosocialist differ from a conventional one?
In that same example, a revisionist socialist would seek to take the history of the Socialist theory, and try to correct something about it — perhaps a new reading of Marx or some other socialist philosopher.
Here’s a good example: NeoNazis.
In order to effectively highlight what a neo approach is, I’ve chosen a pretty intense example — Nazis — because after this example, you should be able to get the idea.
First, the conventional Nazi theory: Nazis do have a theory about how the world works, and they tried to test those theories in the real world. But, to do so, they had to get power, and the means by which they gained control, in order to carry out their ideas, was Fascism.
Nazi’s thought that the world was too accepting of people in general, and that there are groups of people who are responsible for the decline of whatever (Germany, in this case). But really, you can fill in the blank for the decline of x. But historically, Nazis were convinced that there were people responsible for the decline of Germany, and that these same people largely contributed to the failure of the country during WWI and beyond.
More specifically the argument’s logic looked something similar to this: Prior to WWI, Germany was a very open community, but then there was a war. This war was because Germans were TOO accepting of people, and Germans should have instead been more selective of who is “German.” Consequentially, Hitler’s logic said that if Germany could get rid of (mostly) Jews, the disabled, gypsies, blacks, and all other unwanted minorities, Germany would be great again. There would be a nation full of strong, capable, mentally sound, hard-working people dedicated to Germany and Germany alone! … This theory, was the Nazi theory.
Incidentally they lost WWII, and it turns out this theory is not only scientifically wrong, it’s also racist, bigoted, violent, Fascism is uncontrollable, and adherents were rightfully shamed and prosecuted.
But just because the Nazis lost the war doesn’t mean the ideas inherent in Nazism were dead. In fact, there are now neo-Nazis.
Here’s what a neo-Nazi looks like: First of all, they don’t need to be all skinhead and openly for Hitler. While those types do exist, contemporary neo-Nazism can take a very different forms. You would be surprised who has Nazi-like thoughts.
In any case, neo-Nazis take the original Nazi theory, as described above, and try to update it, and parse it down, and make it relevant for the times. The neo approach doesn’t focus on Fascist statism anymore, and they don’t use the exclusive-citizenship argument anymore. Instead, they focus on white nationalism/pride and underscore the need to create strong white communities. This approach hopes to spark conceptions of “white pride,” which, in effect, downplays minority rights, and the rest should sort itself out. Neo-Nazis understand the need to forge a common identity, and an “imagined community” where you can identify with one another, which is a means of creating the grounds for their ideas.
Nazis, like many others, understand that ideas are far more powerful, and have the power to stick around far longer than any policy. Neo-Nazis can be well organized, or simply a person living down the street from you. And, considering America’s past with race relations, neo-Nazism can effectively take hold in the United States, and even be married to other extremists like the KKK. And, along with the KKK, these organizations seek to create an atmosphere that favors white nationalism. They understand that if that can be created, that the policy will follow.
The neo-Nazi movement effectively freshens Nazi ideas by downplaying political Fascism while highlighting white nationalism as a form of “civilization.” The reason this is done is because everyone knows that Nazi ideology can’t take control of governments anymore and become policy outright (at least in the West), so instead the approach is to create an imaginary, connected community of like-minded people who want to emphasize Whiteness, and implicitly (or explicitly, either way) de-legitimize minority rights. While neo-Nazis can still target Jews, they can also target pretty much any minority using this logic.
Also, a neo-Nazi would generally accept traditional Nazi actions and theory as legitimate. So, if you’re trying to spot who adheres to a Nazi-ish world view, look for emphasis on “whiteness,” or white nationalism, an advocacy of minority-excluding policies, and an indifference towards the policies during Nazi Germany.
While I’m not sure how serious the problem is, I will say that these ideas are dangerous, and some people are closer to them than they think. Essentially there are two types of minority-excluding groups in America today: 1) Wealthy and powerful people who prefer to insulate themselves from minorities (white flight), which can be overt or covert racism, and 2) people who willfully advocate for separation of minorities, exclusion, or violence against minorities. Both groups exist, but the latter is essentially following a neo-Nazi approach.
And there are a few reasons why neo-Nazis love America: 1) There’s a complicated past with minorities, 2) statistics favor a white-centric worldview, 3) if they can get a majority consensus and organize well, they can have the policy, and 4) typical Americans aren’t even very clear on what racism actually is.
And now that you read this article, you can distinguish between a formal theory and a new, or neo, theory. This information is quite useful for lots of stuff — like following the news and learning virtually any discipline.
Now go think about how you’re going to change stuff. … I will await neo-Christian services, neo-Cubist paintings, and neo-noir films.